Steve Thairu Mbaki

Another Kenya: Crossroads of a Decolonized Africa

At the end of the 19th century (1885), the great European powers were not getting along. Between the 1870s and the beginning of the 20th century, the “race to share Africa” saw Europeans invade and colonize almost the entire continent. Despite their distrust and differences, this “sharing” was carried out in a relatively orderly fashion, thanks to the agreements of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. But what might have happened if this scramble for Africa had never taken place, and how would this affect Kenya’s current situation?

Africa’s natural riches are such that it’s hard to imagine that Europeans wouldn’t have tried to colonize it at some point. A later race to divide it up would probably have taken place. The pressure to exploit Africa also came from entrepreneurs, ambitious companies and even European public opinion. Kenya’s elephant ivory, for example, was in great demand by Europeans in the 19th century.

Certainly, if the sharing had not taken place when it did, the consequences for the world could have been severe. History would be different. Without massive colonization occupying them, the European powers might have clashed even more. The First World War might have broken out earlier.

The Commonwealth and the omnipresence of English would not exist. Without the imposition of English, a symphony of indigenous languages would fill the Kenyan airwaves. Swahili, Kikuyu, Kikamba, Luo and others would have been able to evolve freely, shaping unique cultural identities distinct from the English-speaking sphere. The Queen’s death does not echo across the Kenyan plains, and the Commonwealth Games would be a vestige of another reality. However, new languages are said to have emerged as a result of trade and the country’s evolution.

In Kenya, some communities had chiefs, but most lived in an egalitarian system. The British settlers introduced a hierarchical system, resulting in the emergence of selfish leaders who monopolized everything, driving wedges between people. Kenya’s largest shantytown, a consequence of this now culturally entrenched class system, is a sad testimony to this.

A lot of people born today wouldn’t be here, like me, because we’ve had to shake up the norms to change the way people marry and move around. Moving them from east to west, north to south and vice versa. In this way, overpopulation is not the cause of climate change.

This reflection concerns not only Kenya, but an entire continent liberated from the grip of European powers. It pushes us to confront the “what ifs” of history, inviting us to reflect on the choices we make today and the futures we want to build. By understanding the complexity of alternative paths, we can better appreciate the present, its challenges and its opportunities. Let’s move forward, but let’s not forget the effects of colonization (dividing groups and communities), particularly on a global scale, where Westerners have chosen to read and listen to watered-down history, ignoring all the benefits they still enjoy today.